Morning Skate Report: Flames vs. Blackhawks
Pivot Mikael Backlund sat in the press box in Sunrise, FL on Friday as a healthy scratch but he will return to the lineup tonight in Chicago.
Head coach Brent Sutter felt Backlund wasn't emotionally engaged in the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday and the bench boss is hoping the night off against the Panthers was a motivating experience for the 22 year-old.
"I'm looking for Backs to have more intensity in his game," Sutter said. "He's a young guy that needs to continue to improve and progress.
"We need that emotional level in his game. That's what makes him a good player. When he has that, he can be a real good player for us. When that drops off, he's not at the level we need him to be."
Backlund admitted his performance against the Lightning wasn't up to snuff but is heading into tonight's game with an excellent mindset. He believes in himself and knows if he focuses in on improving his overall game, the points will start to come.
"I haven't been playing as good as I can," he stated. "I've got to get back to that and find a way to do it. Compete harder."
The forward's season hasn't gone as he would have liked. He missed just over a month with a broken pinky finger and didn't score his first goal of the year until Dec. 3 in a 5-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
He also hasn't been overly consistent in the faceoff circle - he won just one of 12 draws in Tampa Bay on Thursday - but doesn't believe that is due to recovery from the broken digit.
"I'm not going to sit and point fingers or anything else," he said with a shake of his head. "It's myself. I haven't been good enough."
With Backlund suiting up tonight, Roman Horak will sit out.
The Madhouse on Madison has not been a friendly place for the Flames. They've lost 10 straight in the United Center, being outscored by a 46-21 margin in that span.
"We haven't played well enough here, as well as we need to play," Sutter said. "You have a bad period and when you're playing a team like Chicago, that has the talent level that they have and the skill level, you can't afford not to be 60 minute team."
The Blackhawks roster hosts a plethora of extremely skilled players. A single mistake can easily end up in the back of the net and if teams don't come at Chicago hard, their talent and prowess with the puck will carry them to an easy victory.
Sutter knows his club must have a complete effort for the entirety of the game if they want to close out their road swing with a win.
"In the past, when we've come in here, we just haven't had that full 60 minutes," the head coach said. "Tonight we have to have that.
"We've got to play hard here. Our will and our compete level has to be higher than theirs. Just go out there and play the game like it needs to be played."
Rene Bourque played for Chicago from 2005-08, playing in 183 games. He scored 33 goals and 75 points during his tenure with the Blackhawks.
Sutter spent seven seasons with the Blackhawks during his playing career. He amassed 76 goals and 219 points in Chicago silks.